Stillwater trout fishing has not come easy for team Seven Stripes this Fall. And that’s putting it lightly. I’ve just plain sucked in the fly fishing department.
I spent the latter half of the striper season filling Sean (the newest fly rod devotee) with stories of success from past falls; tales in which dozen-fish-outings were not unheard of, when the midges clouded the autumn twilight skies, when the rises on the emerging chironomidae dimpled the kettlepond surface like meteorite dust on the atmosphere.
And when the boat was pulled and the trout were stocked, we tramped down to my favorite little kettle hole in the State Forest and Sean hooked a fish within his first dozen casts of his 5-weight.
But, during the fight, the hook must have come dislodged from our rainbow friend (as it so often does when chasing trout) and the fish was gone.
Sean all smiles, says: “That was fun. Let’s get another one.”
I agreed. But this isn’t what happened. The rest of the trip, we went fishless. Skunked. Not even a hit. And our next outing in that same pond? Nothin’.
(Sean ended up trying a few different ponds solos, and without my bad mojo present, managed to land a few very nice rainbows. But I won’t talk about these trips because it doesn’t conform to my narrative).
Skip ahead a few more outings in a few different ponds and I was just the way I began the Fall trout season: Trout-less on the fly rod.
Signs of life
Cut to Saturday, a cool, breezy morning with a lackadaisical start time of around 10am and a moderate scotch-and-red-meat hangover. Sean and I made a late audible and decided to fish a pond we had not had success visiting so far this year, but had produced in past Novembers (those dozen-fish outings come to mind).
And as I pulled on my cold waders and watched a nice rainbow come right out of the water thirty-feet off the beach, I felt that we may have a chance to repeat those successes.
We opted to start on a little rocky outcropping–Sean with his flashy kreelex, me with a midge. We began seeing subtle then not-so-subtle rises, but couldn’t get takers. I even tied on an old mainstay in this particular spot, the San Juan Worm, and it was ignored like the rest of my fly box (some of you may be able to determine the exact spot I’m speaking of by this small detail).
The rises died down, and we moved locations. Same deal as before. Rises but no takers.
Our third spot was a muddy cove, a known producer of big fish. We moved around this spot for a long time, casting size 20 dries, zebras and discos, big gaudy streamers, black woollies (no flash) and dropper rigs. Nada. Fish continued to rise just out of casting range. The wind died down, but the day got colder as it crept closer to an early sunset. The skunk loomed large and prominent.
But then I hooked a fish, and in that millisecond of take and trout set, my worries vanished, overtaken by a flood of relief and adrenaline. It took the top fly on a dropper rig, a Miss Clara (*more on this in a second). He fought like a big old fish and just as Sean got into position for a few pictures, I got him in the net.
I always wonder how long these fish have been living in this pond for. I’ve seen pictures of other big kype-jawed browns taken from this pond. Do they stock them like this? Or do they just sit in the deep holes eating sunfish all year, only to emerge in March and November to cruise the shallows, eating midge pupae and shiners alike?
After a few shots, this big guy kicked away. And just like that, with the biggest brown trout I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in person, my Fall was salvaged.
*The Miss Clara is a Pirate special, a small buggy midge that sometimes sits on the surface, sometimes hangs just below, or sometimes sinks like a beadhead. It really depends on how it’s feeling that day. This fly is a known brown producer. In fact, not a half hour after this fish, Sean hooked into a brilliantly colored stocked rainbow on this same fly, with a beadhead nymph below it. I’ll post a and recipe at a later date.